President Trump wants schools fully reopened but Wake County disagrees

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- It took on the air of "education day" for the Trump administration with a fierce public push to get schools back open in the fall amid the pandemic.

The president, the vice president and the secretary of education are all calling for schools to fully reopen in the fall -- a plan that Wake County Public Schools is not on board with.

"We want our schools open in the fall," said President Donald Trump, echoing the big theme at the White House Tuesday.


"To open up America again, we've got to open up America's schools," added Vice President Mike Pence.

The president and vice president were flanked by like-minded school teachers, parents and administration officials who all made the case for a reopening of the nation's schools, arguing that the risks of keeping kids home outweighs any risks tied to COVID-19.

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"It's so important that the children, at this age especially, that they're together, together on campus. And that's what we're striving for. And we're gonna be very strong on that," said President Trump.

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The president's Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, pushed even harder today in a conference call with the nation's governors, telling them, "Our nation's schools must fully reopen and fully operate this school year. Anything short of that robs students, not to mention taxpayers, of their future."

Wake County School Board Chairman Keith Sutton spoke to ABC11 after reading the Trump Administration's demands.

Sutton suggested the topic of school reopening, much like the discourse over wearing face coverings in public, has become ideologically driven.

"Unfortunately, much of this is becoming politicized," said Sutton.

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"Ultimately the decision around operation of schools is left up to the states. That's not a call by the federal government," Sutton explained. "I don't even know if I would call (the Administration's comments) guidance at this point. It may be more noise if anything."



Last week, Sutton and the WCPSS school board voted to adopt the state's "Plan B" option for school reopening -- breaking up the district's student body into three groups: One group will do in-person learning for one week; another group will do virtual online learning for two weeks; each group will rotate with one week on campus then two weeks off campus.

Sutton said the decision came down to the district's capacity to safely social distance students on school buses given the state's guidance of no more than 23 kids per bus.

"That effectively reduces our capacity by two-thirds. We can only transport a third of students. So that really drives the decision," Sutton said.

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ABC 11 did reach out to Governor Roy Cooper's office Tuesday night.

A spokesperson confirmed the governor was on a conference call with Vice President Pence today, but could not say for sure whether he was on the call with Secretary DeVos.
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